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You board a flight on which everything seems routine
Whose hands on the tarmac took your suitcase away?
Airline pilots are called philosophers of space

Their eyes are opaque like the eyes of Modigliani’s figures
Only painters can speak with authority about feelings
In America a man gunned down many people once

For three weeks fear was synonymous with white truck
Toll roads, data centers, communication satellites
A bird’s eye view of the Valley of the Fallen



First objects, then affects, then forms of cooperation
The ozone layer and other particulate matter
We live in a Heraclitean age (which is like all ages)

Along the river, diamond-shaped signs ALCOSAN
Your eyes cling to any text they can find
A billboard advertising daily wear contact lenses

Protesters with banners addressed to the people of America
So what if history no longer knocks on the door
Resistance is no longer punishable by death



The membrane of consciousness is language (C. Bernstein)
Blue ink from blue pen, blue notebook cover
Attempts at speech while dreaming and while awake

An eyelash, a stray comma, on the pillow
From an unfinished dream, an unfinished reality
Words too far in the past to know what they mean

Encounters with the vastness of nature on the Aegean Sea
He composed while sitting for hours in total darkness
Image taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, Courtesy NASA



The year of hope and flag burning, the year of the snake
Keys tossed into the river, attempts to define “dusk”
At the Omni Hotel, a panel of intellectuals

Able to fight two wars at once, how many souls aboard
Rancière’s Mute Speech, pictures of sea and sky
No such thing as society, just a child born with no name

Black and white monuments, skyscrapers in the rain
Have you ever seen a thing spontaneously disintegrate?
A renewed demand for social realism in our age



In our age of small, artificially pacified nations
A man with dilated pupils discourses on cosmopolitanism
Clouds are a product of memory, a genre of time

The infinite multiplicity of history (a burning museum)
Stumbling on yet another improvised memorial
                                                decades from now

I felt something I didn’t know I was capable of feeling

Only once, two times maybe, did you notice the stars



Pay attention to root causes—begin with institutions
We’ve made an art of sitting things out
A new currency or co-op, “like particles or waves”

At the Kosmos Cinema, the first rain of summer
Your t-shirt is not a site of agency
Your grade is not a reflection of effort

The protesters with banners, the police, more police
Some singing in unison, some thinking in unison
Refusal is not enough



Here’s a map: this part belongs to you, that to barbarians
Stoned to death by the Taliban in a rudderless state
The meaning of “we” in the party of “no”

The sun is the first metaphysician, says the guru
Money doesn’t have a country, says the voice on the radio

We toured the historic city among posters of the missing

Tears streaming down his face or hardened lava



To identify the precise date when the shift occurred
A software program with a hidden design flaw
In August the river dried out, revealing an ancient statue

An old record was shattered at the Beijing Olympics
From Ich bin ein Berliner to We Are All Socialists Now
A leaflet from the street protest, to prove I was there

Music is muddle and everyone is an artist
He pulled up his shirt to display a small gunshot wound
A six-foot dollar sign stood beside her coffin  


Piotr Gwiazda is the author of two books of poems, Gagarin Street (2005) and Messages (2012). He has also published two critical studies, James Merrill and W. H. Auden (2007) and US Poetry in the Age of Empire (2014). His translation of Polish writer Grzegorz Wróblewski’s Kopenhaga was published in 2013. His poems, essays, reviews, and translations appear in many journals, including AGNI, Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, Jacket, The Nation, The Southern Review, the TLS, and XCP: Cross Cultural Poetics. He teaches modern and contemporary poetry at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.